Saturday, 30 March 2013

Parenting 101: How to not let the clocks ruin your child's sleep pattern

It is that annoying weekend again. I have ranted about this before and I will do it again now. Why oh why do we have to go through this annual ritual of messing up everyone's body clocks just so that it can be slightly brighter at night (but dark again in the mornings).

I still don't fully understand the benefit these days. But I will avoid ranting any more here. If you want to find out who to direct your rant to it was a certain Mr Willett.

Meanwhile, how do you cope this weekend when, not only have the children been off school for the Easter holidays - and presumably allowed to stay up a little later in the vain hope they might give you a lie in - but you also need to adjust their body clock back the other way in time for school's return?

Adjusting bedtime

My daughters (age 6 and 4) went to bed at 9.30pm last night. It was a rare treat as we had friends round. They loved it and had a great time. They woke up slightly later than their usual 6am, but not much. They are tired today. I'll have to try and get them to bed earlier tonight and hope that they are tired enough to settle at their usual time of 7.30pm. I very much suspect that I will struggle though, and it'll be closer to 8.30pm.

But after tomorrow I will need to get them to be tired enough to go to bed an hour earlier again! It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. A least this time they won't be waking at 4.30am like they do when we put the clocks back again in November! At least I hope not.

Losing an hour's sleep

Once we put the clocks forward an hour tomorrow evening, the girls bodies will think it's 7.30pm, but it will actually be 8.30pm on the clock. So, to get them back to normal bedtime I need to con their body into going to sleep at what they think is 6.30pm. No easy task.

Why bother doing anything?

If I don't do anything, by the time they go back to school they'll be going to bed late and waking up late. I'll be trying to wake a child at 6am to get ready for school, and their body will think it's 5am. It won't be pretty.

A phased approach

The only way to cope with this annual confusion is to try and ease their bedtimes closer to the new times in a phased way, whilst also trying to factor in holiday treats.

As if us parents didn't have enough juggling to do!

You may be thinking, well they'll go to sleep when they are tired surely? Er, no. As adults we are bad enough at staying up late even when we know we are tired. How can we expect children, who don't want to miss anything, to take themselves off to bed at the most appropriate point?
Children are much more likely to get "past it" and "overtired" and then you have a bolshy, tearful, exhausted child that can't settle to sleep, on your hands.

So, what do we do again?

Try and slowly adjust bedtime over the next few days. The clocks will have jumped forward an hour, but your children will still be on old time, so let them be. Each night try and shift everything by 10 minutes or so, towards the new times.

Usual tea time of 5pm will suddenly be at 6pm, because that's when the children will be hungry (their bodies think its 5pm, but the clock weirdly says different). Let the dinner and bedtime routine fall at these apparently later times for a few days, then bring it slowly back to the "proper" time.

Some people say you can just "do it" all in one quick move. But I have tried that and it appears to disorientated the children. They get hungry and tired at the "wrong" times and then are confused.

Remember, it's a little bit like jet lag, but without the benefit of a holiday!

Good luck!


  1. Usually takes us a few days to get going.
    Although both mine woke at 6am this morning which of course was 5am yesterday. hopefully they will sleep at the normal times

    1. Mine woke at 7am today (I.e their usual 6am). Fine whilst on holidays -lie in!- but they wouldn't go to sleep tonight until 8.30pm. I'll be OK as long as I slowly shift that back before they have to get up at 6am for school and as long as they try and catch up by lying in when having a late night. Fingers crossed!

  2. I've just been chatting with someone on G+ about something similar and I was saying how I'm glad I'm past the whole shifting sleep patterns due to the clock changes. I read your post with interest as my kiddies are also 6 and 4. When they were babies I would build up to clock changes religiously changing their naps and final bedtime each day so when the clocks changed PING their body clock was pre adjusted! Now though I don't think about it. Admittedly today all meals have been late then that happens a lot on lazy weekends and holidays, we shift accordingly. When they go back to school I'll just throw them in bed at 6:30 and 7:30! I hope you work it out.
    Thanks for linking up to my request for blogs to read. I have now found you and whacked you in my bloglovin' ;) x x

    1. Fab, thanks.

      Yes, it was soooo much worse when they were little. Mine get over tired so quickly though its ridiculous. We try and let them stay up late in school holidays, and when abroad, but they still wake up at the same time as before and are then grumpy all day!

      I nearly moaned to a fellow mum recently who cut me short and said I couldn't moan now, when they are getting up, as I had the teenage years still to look forward to when you can't get them out of bed!

      I suppose I am never happy!


Hi there! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Share with StumbleUpon


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...